Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet

Steel Curtain Dynasty: Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet History

Like the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers own what is also one of the most unique helmets in pro football. Like the Browns, the Steelers go logoless, but unlike the Browns, they have a helmet logo. They’re the only team in the NFL that only puts their logo on one side of the helmet.

Of the thirty-one teams with a helmet logo, the Steelers’ design is arguably the most unique since it’s neither a drawing, set of letters, nor a caricature of any type; but it’s derived from an actual corporate logo, something not seen in the NFL or in any of the four major North American sports.

For this reason, the Steelers are unique in many, many ways.

Speaking of Logos

Their helmet logo stems from Steelmark, the logo that represents steel and the steel industry owned by the American Iron and Steel Institute which can be viewed in its entirety here.

The team adopted the colors of black and gold, which also serves as the City of Pittsburgh’s colors and also that of their two other sports teams, the MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again, you can’t really go for such uniqueness anywhere in sports today, for a team to represent their city colors, plus bear a logo that represented the city’s primary industry for decades; perhaps no other team’s helmet and color scheme hits home more than the Steelers perhaps rivaled only by the Browns, whose name stems from legendary Ohio coach Paul Brown and his team’s color scheme, borrowed from Bowling Green State University, a major university located not incredibly far from Cleveland.

Enough chit chat, as they say here in Pittsburgh, let’s get yinz down to the helmet history!

 

==> Click Here for the Steelers’ Team Profile <==

 

Early Helmet History: 1933-1967

Pittsburgh Steelers gold helmet

For most of their early history, the Steelers used what appears to be an all-gold leatherhead before switching to an all-gold helmet with a plastic shell in 1960.

Before 1960, the Steelers had a rather turbulent history. Here’s a brief timeline:

In 1933, the team used gold (yellow) leatherheads.

Come 1935, the team then-known as the Pittsburgh Pirates used a yellow leatherhead with black winged look, kind of a resemblance to the University of Michigan.

In 1937, the Pirates used a black and yellow-patterned leatherhead.

From 1938-1940, the Pirates used gold leatherheads again. Note that in 1940, the Pirates changed their name to the Steelers.

In 1941, the team added white leatherheads, which turned to black in 1942.

In 1943, the team merged with the Philadelphia Eagles and became the ‘Steagles’ for a year, adopting the Eagles’ uniform. This merger was due to a shortage of players from World War II.

In 1944, they merged with the Chicago Cardinals to become Card-Pitt. They would adopt the Cardinals’ look that year.

From 1945 to 1956, the Steelers opted for plain yellow helmets, which continued when they introduced plastic shells as well, adding a helmet stripe in 1954.

From 1957-1961, the Steelers added black numbers to the sides of their helmet.

In 1962, Steelers’ owner Art Rooney introduced the unique Steelmark logo but wished to test the look on the gold helmet before adopting it full-time. Therefore, Rooney instructed equipment manager Jack Hart to place the logo on the right side of the helmet. The look was immediately popular with fans, which motivated the team to keep the look full-time and it remains so today.

Also, for the 1962 Playoff Bowl, a consolation game to determine the NFL’s 3rd place team, black helmets came into the fold for the first time.

In 1963, the current logo came into the mold, as the Steelers were granted permission to add the letters ‘ers’ to the current Steel wordmark shown in the logo. Also, the orange asteroid was changed to red.

You can view the classic Steelers’ look here.

 

==> Click Here for the Steelers’ Jersey History <==

 

Subtle Changes: 1967-Present

Logoless side of the Pittsburgh Steelers Helmet

Like their rivals, the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers have only made slight changes to the helmet since the 1967 change, when they switched the helmet’s color from gold to black, with the black helmet stripe changing to gold.

Only the facemask has changed since the helmet redesign, going from gray to black in the early 1970s.

The look has become one of the most recognized worldwide, especially after the collapse of the steel industry in America during the latter half of the 20th century. Coupled with the Steelers’ success over the past 47 years, many left Pittsburgh and took their team’s heritage with them all over the nation and these days, worldwide.

It’s not uncommon to see several Steeler fans in every part of the US for this reason, as many can trace their familial roots back to the City of Pittsburgh.

 

Shop Pittsburgh Steelers gear at FansEdge.com

 

My Take

The look is rather iconic, I must say, and it’s another reason the Steelers share a rivalry with the Cleveland Browns, as each teams’ helmet and for the most part, uniforms have remained traditional, both receiving modernized upgrades even during Cleveland’s 2015 redesign.

Like the Browns, the Steelers can link today’s players with the Steel Curtain dynasty of the 1970s, as players like Juju Smith-Schuster and James Connor have worn the same look as players like Franco Harris and Lynn Swann.

At the very least, I respect teams who follow such a mantra.

 

Conclusion

The Steelers’ timeless look will continue to link old school fans with new fans, and players of old with players of today. It will continue to link players Terry Bradshaw to Neil O’Donnell to Ben Roethlisberger to whomever takes the reins in the future, but it also links coaches like Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin under one black and yellow banner and logo.

I would be very surprised to see the Steelers change their helmet or logo, even if the NFL lifted the multiple helmet rule and Nike (or whatever brand the NFL goes with in the future) pressured teams into using multiple helmets.

The Rooneys were vocal back in 2002 when Reebok became the primary manufacturer and stated each of the 31 existing teams and the new Houston Texans would all get new uniforms. Their vocalness, along with other traditional teams, caused Reebok to shoot down their plans.

And for good reason.

16 comments

  1. Interesting post there Todd; I didn’t know that the Steelers are the only NFL tram to have their logo on only 1 side of the helmet. Do you think that they’ll win the Super Bowl next year?

    1. They definitely are! I don’t think they will. With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell leaving the team, they’re going to be in some trouble. While Juju Smith-Schuster and James Connor are good players, they’re nowhere near the caliber of their predecessors. But as a Browns fan, I won’t lose any sleep if the Steelers struggle next season. Lol.

  2. Hi Todd

    Personally, not a big fan of American football but I really like your article about the helmet. I like that you mentioned the history of the helmet too. I should say, it is quite interesting.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. One reason I went to the aesthetic niche was because talking of helmets and jerseys linked those outside the realms of those who never followed the game in the past. It kind of serves as a small introductory to some of the looks and designs rather than talking of the game itself, which can be very dry at times!

    1. Thanks, Stefania! Some of these helmets, like Pittsburgh’s, never change for the most part and it allows for short, quick reads! I think some fans like that.

  3. Well, I am from Houston and the Oilers used to have a fantastic rivalry with both the Steelers and the Browns. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Steelers not so much the Browns for a number of reasons. You have to respect the tradition of Pittsburgh including their logo but I don’t like either team. Football is great!

    1. The old Oilers did have some great rivalries then. It’s why part of me wishes the Titans or even the Texans would’ve been in the AFC North despite geographical distance rather than the Baltimore Ravens, who really don’t have anything to do with either franchise these days now that Art Modell is gone and the fact they were technically an expansion team back in 1996, just with the Browns’ roster. I’d say more the Titans than Texans; it’d be my first choice to see them swap divisions with Baltimore, but the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry is a good one, nonetheless. 

  4. Hi Todd,

    I love to read the history of anything, so I appreciate that you have included the history of the logo from the steel industry

    I take it that the team name The Steelers also comes from this connection to steel. Which I find kinda spooky as I grew up very near to the UK’s best known steel city of Sheffield.

    Great information on all the teams helmets. Good site for sports/history enthusiasts.

    1. Hi, Louise, Steelers was derived from the Steel industry. It’s actually known as the Steel City, despite the fact most of our steel mills in the area (I grew up 35 minutes west of Pittsburgh) have closed and have been demolished. Nevertheless, ghosts of a time long since lost still lurk, as is evidenced by the old hearth stacks that still stand today at the Waterfront over in Homestead, just east of Pittsburgh.

  5. A very interesting post. Especially since I have watched dozens of Steelers games without having any idea what the logo stood for. When you think about it, it’s so much easier to figure out the Bills logo, Jaguars,  or the Dolphins logo as they are self-explanatory. 

    I tend to like the simpler ones like the San Diego Chargers.

    However, like most people, I also think the Steelers logo is pretty cool and very distinctive even if I had no idea(until now) what it actually stood for.  I wonder if they have trade-marked the logo now? 

    1. The good old steel industry may have evaporated in the Steel City but its legacy will always remain through this unique helmet. The Steelers’ logo is a mystery to many but to those residing in the City of Pittsburgh, where it’ll always be held to an excellent standard. As a Cleveland fan, I have to laugh because the logo came from The City of Light!  I think the logo itself is trademarked since it’s a spinoff of the real Steelmark Logo. The original logo held an orange asteroid where the red is, plus said ‘Steel’ instead of ‘Steelers.’

  6. Here in Colorado, I live near an Army base.  Thus, there are football fans from all over the US in this area.    I’ve seen the Steeler’s logo a lot.  So, I’m thinking they must have a huge fan base in the area.  Granted, there are more Denver Bronco fans in the area because of our proximity to Denver.   

    Anyway, I was actually surprised to see that the Steeler’s do not have their logos on their helmet since the logo seems to be very popular.  Enough so that I recognize it.  Out of all the pro football teams, I probably would not be able to describe most of their logos.    

    I always wondered how they came up with that logo.    You explained that here.  Thanks!  

    1. The Steelers definitely have a widespread fan base. This is due to an intersect between when the team started winning consistently in 1972 (and have been doing so ever since) and when the steel industry took a hit, forcing a migration from the Steel City. Thus, you’ll find a Steeler bar all over the country in any major city. I have relatives in Florida (I’m from the Pittsburgh area) who can catch all sixteen Steeler games a year plus the playoffs. 

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